Who hasn’t experienced it in working life: there are many meetings, eager discussions and promises are made. When you look at the results a few weeks later, you realize that a lot has vanished into thin air.
A team can only achieve results if there is a clear commitment, if they take over the responsibility for implementation, and do consistent work to achieve the goals.
Commitment has been a central component of the Scrum Framework for a long time and is one of the five values next to Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage. These values guide the Scrum Team in its work and behavior. As guiding stars, the values help make the right decisions and take the right path because they should be strengthened and not damaged in everything the Scrum Team does.
The current version of the Scrum Guide (as of November 2020) also explicitly mentions commitments for the three artifacts.
These are: Commitment to
- the Product Goal, which is part of the Product Backlog,
- the Sprint Goal, which is part of the Sprint Backlog and
- the Definition of Done, which the developers have to fulfill when creating the Increment.
The entire process is accompanied by the three commitments and supported by the values. It starts with a clear vision for the product, which is expressed in the Product Goal. It then continues through the Sprints, in which Increments are created, and the respective Sprint Goals guide the Scrum Team. That results in a clear focus but also certain flexibility in how the work is done.
The commitment to the Definition of Done ensures that the Increment always meets the quality requirements. That provides transparency because everyone knows what is expected and what can be expected.
Therefore, commitments provide focus and transparency, both in the short term when creating an Increment in a sprint and in the long term regarding the product goal.
Doesn’t such commitments cause incredible stress? What if the team cannot keep them?
Keeping the commitments at all costs is not the goal. You should try your best. It’s one thing to promise something, but developments and circumstances that lie in the future cannot be foreseen. Fixed promises over more extended periods are not useful. Because we do not know whether the environment will behave as assumed. And we also do not know whether what we have set out to do is really doable. Therefore, Scrum works incrementally and iteratively. Goals and processes have to be adjusted and improved from time to time. After each sprint, the Scrum Team reflects and works out improvements.
The adjustments can go so far that a Sprint can be aborted by the Product Owner when the Sprint Goal has become obsolete. Or a new Product Backlog is set up if a new Product Goal is necessary.
The commitments offer an excellent possibility for alignment: Do the goals, the value you want to deliver, the environment, and how you work still fit? If something does not fit, it becomes visible, and you can find out together what needs to be changed.